A couple of years ago, selfie was selected as Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. Last November, they crowned the term post-truth as the one to reign supreme of 2016. Post-truth, meaning circumstances in which opinions and personal beliefs are more influential than facts. Or, in the words of Katherine Connor Martin, the head of United States dictionaries at Oxford University Press: “It’s saying that the truth is being regarded as mostly irrelevant.”
It seems to me that what has kept us perpetually grounded is our reliance on fact. The reality of what actually happened in the past or is ongoing has been our moral barometer. “The truth always comes out” has been the abiding idiom. It is the warning to those considering wrongdoings. It is the consolation to those impatiently waiting for it to be revealed.
But the truth coming out is negligible if none of us are affected by it when it does.
This all makes sense, of course, when you consider our dispersal and retrieval method of information. While information used to be dispensed by a few, select sources and was therefore much hardier in terms of credibility, the spread of information has gotten away from us. We all have a platform. We are all shouting away at each other on facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat, and on and on. Complex information is condensed into summaries, summaries are captured in sound bites, sound bites recycled into headlines, headlines filtered through captions, captions interpreted through other captions.
And while I believe the root of this term’s popularity is in politics, it nonetheless extends to every aspect of our lives.
We are living in the age of the everywoman having a platform to express her beliefs. And that’s an incredible thing, and, as Fran Lebowitz warned, a terribly unfortunate one.
There are no credentials needed to operate a twitter, instagram, or snapchat account, nor to write a blog. So long as you have an email address and can type you are granted access to a microphone capable of reaching the furthest corners of the world.
And to account for that, it is ever more so our duty to continue to subscribe to the importance of what is true over what is held as a popular opinion or a successful marketing technique.
We perhaps cannot be expected to read and learn all that is necessary in order to savvily, intelligently navigate daily life. But it is up to us to identify those who we know to be in possession of objective, trustworthy expertise, and then rely upon their information and wisdom.
It is our responsibility to remember that not all words are to be taken at their word. That an individual’s opinion must be entertained only to the extent that that person has proven their ability to discern fact from fiction.
Sure, every former bachelor contestant and other reality tv show celebrity may be touting the wonders of some blue gummy hair vitamin on instagram, but does that mean they have any real insight into the world of supplements? Or does it just tell us that they have a vested interest in endorsing said vitamin, namely, monetary compensation?
And maybe that’s the key: in a time when anyone can speak to the masses about any subject they so choose, we’ve got to get savvier at detecting the motivating force behind a person’s words. We have to understand how to read between the lines that are Why I’m telling you this and Why I want you to believe me. We must work to find those sources and people who have themselves labored away at informing themselves of the facts. Whose intentions are pure, who speak from experience, and who truly want each one of us to rise to our highest selves.